Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
May 28, 2023
“Clay and the Immortal Memory,” by Philip K. Allan, Independently Published, 2023, 387 pages, $19.99 (paperback), $5.99 (ebook)
C. S. Forester has been imitated many times since he invented the concept of a novel serial centered on the career of a naval officer. Horatio Hornblower has numerous counterparts, both at sea and in space.
“Clay and the Immortal Memory,” by Philip K. Allan, is the latest entry in one of the more successful series in the maritime genre. It is the tenth book and latest in a series tracing the adventures of Alexander Clay, a fictional Royal Navy officer during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
The book opens in at the end of 1804. Clay commands the frigate Griffin, returning from India after a three-year commission in the Indies. He, his wardroom and his crew have been together longer than that. His officers and a chunk of the forecastle hands are followers, men who follow a trusted captain from ship to ship. Yet all everyone aboard wants right now is home and leave.
Before they can reach home Griffin has to shake off a pursuing squadron of French frigates operating out of Mauritius. That delays them into 1805. While on their homeward leg, they encounter a Franco-Spanish fleet in the Atlantic. It is headed towards the West Indies.
That postpones their arrival home. Once Clay determines their course he heads for the nearest British warships, those blockading Cadiz, to bear warning. He finds Cadiz unguarded, but discovers Admiral Nelson and his fleet at Gibraltar.
He joins Nelson in his chase across the Atlantic and back again in pursuit of the enemy fleet. This leads up to the Battle of Trafalgar, the climax of the war at sea during the Napoleonic Wars. Clay and Griffin participate.
Allan shows both sides of the battle. The book also follows the French fleet through the Redoubtable and its crew. This French ship-of-the-line was part of the fleet commanded by Admiral Villeneuve during this campaign. Allan follows it from Toulon to the West Indies and into the Battle of Trafalgar.
The result is a fast-paced novel that builds to an explosive climax. Allen alters some of the historical events to yield a more coherent story. (There is no Battle of Finisterre – Calder’s Action – in this book.) Yet he avoids too much violence to history.
If you like nautical adventures “Clay and the Immortal Memory” is worth reading. Allan’s Alexander Clay series is one of the more worthy successors to C. S. Forester.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.